Wherever there’s trouble, The Wheel of Time Reread Redux is there! And not even always because I caused it! Today’s Redux post will cover the Chapters 1 and 2 of The Great Hunt, originally reread in this post.
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.) The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay! All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 1: The Flame of Tar Valon
“It’s windy.” LOL. I’m such a shit sometimes.
Hard-walled and high, Fal Dara, both keep and town, never taken, never betrayed.
I was going to be sad that this is no longer true, but then I seem to recall that Fal Dara was never actually taken in the Last Battle, was it? The Borderlanders razed it themselves, to keep it from being used by the Shadow. Which is awful, obviously, but still means that technically, it never fell to the enemy. A cold comfort of sorts.
[Lan] snatched up his own sword, almost the twin of Rand’s except for the lack of herons, and whipped off the scabbard. The blade, slightly curved and single-edged, glittered silvery in the sunlight.
It was the sword of the kings of Malkier. […] Turning his blade in the light, Lan spoke. “In the War of the Shadow, the One Power itself was used as a weapon, and weapons were made with the One Power. […] With the One Power, Aes Sedai drew iron and other metals from the earth, smelted them, formed and wrought them. […] Blades that will not shatter or break, and never lose their edge. […]
“One of those swords, a plain soldier’s sword”—with a faint grimace, almost sad, if the Warder could be said to show emotion, he slid the blade back into its sheath—“became something more.”
I think I missed this bit the other times I’ve been through this chapter, probably because I don’t think it gets explained or referenced ever again, but I like it because it hints at a whole origin legend for Lan’s sword that would probably be a very cool thing to hear. An ordinary soldier’s sword becomes the sword of a king? Yeah, there’s definitely a story there.
It doesn’t even bother me that much that we will almost certainly never get to hear the story; it’s just satisfying in some way to think that Jordan knew that sword’s story, and that that knowledge was there to flavor the main story, even if only for one easily-overlooked line. Of such little details are a vast universe built.
From the original commentary:
By the way, I hope everyone’s caught that a Warder telling Rand that he’s good enough “not to stab himself in the foot” means that by any other standards he’s already pretty damn deadly with a blade. This makes me happy.
Yep, still makes me happy.
I suppose one could complain about the coincidence of Our Hero just happening to be a prodigy at swording, but whatever, it’s a soul thing as far as I’m concerned. Bel’al mentions in TDR that he and Lews Therin basically picked up swordfighting for the LOLZ back when they were still buddies (and reinvented pre-industrial warfare while they were at it), so it’s pretty clear from context that Lews Therin came to the art rather late in life, and yet still managed to become a master at it. So hey, once a freakily quick study, always a freakily quick study. I’m happy to just go with it.
On the question of how exactly Tam al’Thor obtained a 3,000-year-old heron mark sword: I don’t have the specifics to hand, but at one book signing or another Jordan apparently said that Mattin Stepaneos presented the sword to Tam for being a total badass while serving with the Illianer Companions. Which is (a) yet another untold story it’s fun to think about, and (b) a thing I (and most of the commenters) evidently did not know during the original Reread. AND NOW WE KNOW. And knowing is half the battle!
(To anyone who gets that reference without looking it up: congratulations, you’re old. And/or obsessed with horrible 1980s toy merchandising thinly disguised as kids’ cartoons. Now get off my lawn!)
[Lan:] “You want to spend as much time as you can with your friends from home before they go? That’s why you’re dragging your feet? You know what’s sniffing at your heels.”
Rand surged angrily to his feet. “All right, it’s Moiraine! I wouldn’t even be here if not for her, and she won’t as much as talk to me.”
“You’d be dead if not for her, sheepherder,” Lan said flatly, but Rand rushed on.
“She tells me… tells me horrible things about myself”—his knuckles whitened on the sword. That I’m going to go mad and die!—“and then suddenly she won’t even say two words to me. She acts as if I’m no different than the day she found me, and that smells wrong, too.”
I suppose Moiraine ought to be congratulated for her mastery of manipulation here. If she had been all up in Rand’s Kool-Aid in Fal Dara he would have spooked like a deer with an anxiety disorder, but her ignoring him is so baffling and unexpected a move under the circumstances that Rand is sticking around basically just to see what the hell her damage is, whether he realizes it or not.
My comparison of Rand to an easily-spooked deer isn’t a random one, either. Me and nature are no longer friends, but back in the day I did my share of outdoorsy stuff, and we learned quite a bit about getting wild animals to accept your presence. And pretending to ignore them (while subtly showing that you might have yummy treats to share if they only come closer) is the single best way to keep them interested without scaring them away, because it’s behavior that’s both weird (i.e. intriguing) and non-threatening, completely unlike what you’d expect from your standard predator type. So I guess it’s not so surprising that in the right circumstances it works on naïve farmboys just as well as on fuzzy woodland creatures.
(Ergo, Rand is awfully lucky that Moiraine is not actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Not that he (or we) could be sure of that at the time.)
Chapter 2: The Welcome
Odd that this chapter has the Flame of Tar Valon icon instead of the previous one, when the previous chapter was actually named “The Flame of Tar Valon.”
But then, the entire chapter is all about Moiraine Aes-Sedai-ing the hell out of Rand by proxy, and we do see Siuan’s party much closer up in this chapter than in the last one, so from that point of view the icon is appropriate, I suppose. Still, the aesthetic fussbudget in me objects on principle to having both the Prologue and Chapter 1 have the same icon twice in a row. (In lieu of the white flame, I would also have happily accepted the heron-mark sword icon, since swords are practically all Rand and Lan talk about in that chapter anyway.)
But I digress!
His hand drifted to the cloak of its own accord. As if uncertain what they would feel, his fingers brushed the stitching of a serpent curled almost into a circle, but a serpent with four legs and a lion’s golden mane, scaled in crimson and gold, its feet each tipped with five golden claws. His hand jerked back as if burned. Light help me! Was it Amalisa had this made, or Moiraine? How many saw it? How many know what it is, what it means? Even one is too many. Burn me, she’s trying to get me killed.
I have to say, even while I still enjoy the trope-tasticness of Moiraine’s stealth Superboy makeover, Rand’s concerns re: the dragon embroidery specifically do have a point. There’s making him look like a lord/blademaster, and then there’s painting a giant target on his chest, and this seems like the latter.
The knee-high boots fit as if he had worn them a year. He hoped it was just a good cobbler, and not more Aes Sedai work.
I vote Aes Sedai work, because I will believe in Power-wrought boots long before I’ll believe in riding boots that don’t have to be broken in first.
Re my self-destructive behavior theory for Rand: it doesn’t actually go against my jumpy-yet-intrigued deer theory from above. I’m willing to bet there’s plenty of deer out there who came to deeply regret giving into their curiosity about the seemingly-harmless human ignoring them.
Or, you know, they would have regretted it, if they weren’t subsequently wall décor. Ain’t I cheery?
The tall woman drew back the curtain of the palanquin, and the Amyrlin Seat stepped out. Dark-haired, ageless as all Aes Sedai were ageless, she ran her eyes over the assembled watchers as she straightened. Rand flinched when her gaze crossed him; he felt as if he had been touched. But her eyes passed on and came to rest on Lord Agelmar.
You have to give Siuan props, in hindsight, for seeing a guy lit up like Christmas in the crowd and not showing even the tiniest sign of it.
And thus begins several chapters of Rand running around like a beheaded chicken, because I’m going to compare him to ALL the random animals, and you can’t stop me.
Fortunately you’ll have no need to, because I will stop myself instead. Because I am a giver like that. Have a lovely week, y’all, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!